2017 Event Review

NAWS China Lake Air Show 2017 - March 18-19, 2017
Location: NAWS China Lake, Ridgecrest, CA
Admission: Free, Upgraded Seating Available
Parking: Free
Value: Good
Rating out of 10: 7
United States Army Special Forces Black Daggers Parachute Team

United States Army Special Forces Black Daggers Parachute Team

For the first time in over 20 years, Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake hosted an air show, allowing the public a rare opportunity to go on base and see the different aircraft on display that are actively stationed there. Headlining the show was the world renowned United States Navy Blue Angels in their second show of the 2017 season. Other performers included the home based VX-9 "Vampires" in their F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler. Other performers included the U.S. Army Special Operations Black Daggers Parachute Team along with a variety of different aerobatic performers.

Gates opened at 9:00 am and it was perhaps one of the most strict venues I've ever attended. The most serious restrictions included bags of all sorts including chair bags, purses, and other various equipment cases. The show featured a nice array of static aircraft including all 3 variants of the F-35 Lightning II. Other statics included many different F/A-18s stationed at China Lake. An RAF Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon were originally supposed to be static but were called off at the last minute.
The flying portion of the air show officially kicked off at 12:15 with the Army Black Daggers jumping for the opening ceremonies. The team later returned to the skies for a tactical demonstration. A China Lake stationed SH-60 Seahawk helicopter of VX-31 "Dust Devils" carried the parachuters on board during their performances.;
The show featured a nice amount of aerobatic performances including Spencer Suderman in his Meteor Pitts, Jacquie B in her Extra 300, Anna Serbinenko in her Sky Dancer Super Decathlon, and Dan Buchanan in his Special Effects Hang Glider. The Commemorative Air Force also participated with performances by the F8F Bearcat and Spitfire Mk. XIV from the Southern California Wing. One of the more rare performances of the event was from the China Lake based VX-9 "Vampires" flying their very own F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler. The 2 jets showcased multiple passes to the crowd including high speed passes, formation passes, and even a simulated bomb run with pyro.
Concluding the air show was the United States Navy Blue Angels lead by Cdr. Ryan Bernacchi. The team showcased all of their different maneuvers with their F/A-18 Hornets to the crowd of Ridgecrest for the first time in over 20 years. After their aerial performance the team was able to meet the crowd and sign autographs.
For a military open house, China Lake put on a fairly light air show. Despite the small lineup and entry restrictions, the show did draw a large crowd making a successful event. Special thanks to the organizers, attendees, performers, and China Lake personnel for making the air show possible.
Note: from the media side of things a much better coordination would have been preferable.
Performers included:

United States Navy Blue Angels
VX-9 “Vampires” - F/A-18F Super Hornet & EA-18G Growlers
United States Army Special Forces Black Daggers Parachute Team
CAF SoCal Wing: F8F Bearcat & Spitfire Mk. XIV
Jacquie B Extra 300 Aerobatics
Spencer Suderman Meteor Pitts Aerobatics
Dan Buchanan Special Effects Hang Glider
Anna Serbinenko Super Decathlon Aerobatics

Static included:

F-35C Lightning II - VX-9 “Vampires”
F-35B Lightning II - Royal Air Force
F-35A Lightning II - Royal Netherlands Air Force
F/A-18E/F Super Hornets - VX-9 “Vampires”
F/A-18D Hornets - VX-9 “Vampires”
EA-18G Growlers - VX-9 “Vampires”
F-16C Fighting Falcon - Holloman AFB, NM

AV-8B Harrier II - MCAS Yuma, AZ
NASA T-38 Talon
NASA T-34 Mentor
C-130 Hercules - California ANG
T-39 Sabreliner
E-2 Hawkeye


Report and photography by Geoffrey Arnwine for

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Images from China Lake by
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